We first happened upon Bamiyan about seven years ago and as a result we check for Afghan restaurants wherever we travel.
We lived in Columbus, Ohio, then, and the roster of ethnic cuisines there was pretty limited. When we came to NYC, we were always on the lookout for ethnic food we didn't have at home. This corner restaurant near “Curry Hill” and (back then) across the street from a retro diner with a line out the door caught our attention as we strolled up Third one afternoon.
Lacking experience with Afghan food, we were interested to learn from the restaurant’s many posted maps that Afghanistan is surrounded by countries with very distinct and delicious cuisines: Iran, Pakistan, China, and three former Soviet Socialist Republics.
The menu reflects the country’s location: appetizers include mantoo, steamed dumplings like Chinese wontons; sambusas, similar to Indian/Pakistani samosas; stuffed grape leaves (Iran); crispy meat or vegetable filled pastries (SSRs); many of them accompanied by savory sauces made from yogurt or lentils (SSRs and Iran). Salads are simple and herb-fresh, with lemon juice or yogurt dressings. Entrees include an assortment of kabobs, rice dishes, and curries; as well as noodles covered with yogurt, meat, or bean-based sauces; and vegetable main dishes featuring spinach, eggplant, squash, or okra.
Today, the trendy diner that was across the street is gone, and we are pleased that Bamiyan (named for the enormous and ancient Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in early 2001) has survived. The food consistently delights us, the service is very pleasant, and the atmosphere (which includes window tables where diners can recline on pillows) extremely comfortable; exotic in a way that feels authentic rather than tacky.
358 Third Avenue (at 26th Street)
New York, NY 10010